“Being Ruth to One Another”Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford
Last Wednesday, I was feeling worn out and run down. Lauren suggested that it wasn't wise for me to go to services, and I reluctantly assented. That left us looking for a livestream to watch. When we saw that Adam Mullinax, one of the members at Jackson Heights, was preaching in their fall focus, we decided to tune into that, and we were not disappointed. Great job, Adam!
I thought that he had many useful things to say, but one of the most intriguing was citing Ruth as an example of being devoted to one another. Although he didn't have much time to spend dwelling on it, it sparked a number of thoughts in my mind.
For one, Ruth’s attachment to Naomi is an especially strong illustration of our attachment to one another because both are by choice. Once Ruth's husband was dead, Naomi was no longer her mother-in-law. If Ruth had chosen her earthly family, she would have gone back to her mother's house.
Instead, Ruth chose to make family out of a woman who wasn't. In earthly terms, this was a foolish choice. All sorts of horrible fates awaited women without protectors. However, Ruth made this commitment out of love, and God rewarded her for it.
The same is true for us. Nobody makes us obey the gospel. Nobody makes us associate ourselves with a particular local congregation. We also form these relationships out of choice, and when love holds us to our commitments, that finds favor with God too.
There also is much to learn from the words of Ruth's pledge to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17. It has three main elements: a promise to go together, a promise to serve God together, and a promise to stay together.
All of these things are part of our relationship with one another too. We should not take lightly the choice to become a member of a local congregation. Instead, we should be determined to go through life together with our brothers and sisters.
This means sharing our lives with them and allowing them to share their lives with us. It means being open about our joys and our struggles and joining in the joys and struggles of others. Church is not a place where we go for a few hours each week. It is a spiritual family that we have chosen like Ruth chose Naomi.
Because of this family relationship, we serve God together. We are not consumers. We do not belong to a church for what we get out of it.
Instead, we assemble to contribute. We work to contribute. We don't rejoice when we shine; we rejoice when we have served others in the lowliest way possible and helped them to shine.
Finally, church family means that we stay together. There are limits here, of course. Placing membership is not a marriage vow!
However, neither is it a marriage of convenience. We don't stick around as long as everything is going great, only to bail at the first sign of church struggles or relationship challenges.
In Maury County, Tennessee, it's easy to bail. There are dozens of other congregations that would gladly add another family to the rolls. However, the easy choice is often not the best choice, and it isn't the best choice here.
We don't grow when we church-hop at the first whiff of trouble. Instead, we grow through humility, patience, and self-sacrifice as we stick things out with our people. All this sounds uninviting to the worldly, but the child of God will recognize it as the source of enduring joy, both in this life and in the life to come.